Friday, January 8, 2010

Professionalism and Respect are a Two-Way Street

Even though I'm not much of an MTV viewer, being a wardrobe stylist, of course I wanted to see how this season of MTV’s Styl’D played out. While the junior assistants competing for a coveted senior stylist position made some major gaffs in professionalism (i.e. losing a credit card, crying and walking off a job, stealing a senior stylists’ client, completely insulting and disrespecting the head of the junior stylist program, etc.), you can probably chalk it up to immaturity and inexperience (not that that’s any kind of excuse). My question is, what is the excuse for the lack of professionalism from the senior stylists? I know I don’t have the same number of years experience as a stylist that Jen Rade has, but I do have ten years of experience as a career adviser and possess a common sense understanding of the importance of professionalism and respect within the work place, regardless of the industry.

Now, knowing that Styl’D is a “reality” show, I do understand that things are never as they appear due to clever editing and cast members feeling pressure to add contrived drama to the “real-life” situations to draw more ratings. Having said that, it was shocking to witness Jen Rade who is the head of the junior assistant program constantly dropping the f-bomb, firing a junior assistant in front of all her peers, and threatening physical violence to a junior assistant. Just like Jen’s firing of the junior assistant in front of her peers, I thought it was backwards for senior stylist Julie Weiss to criticize a junior assistant in front of his peers and praise him in private. Shouldn’t you always praise in public and criticize in private? Or is that something that just doesn’t bring in TV ratings?

While Julie’s behavior wasn’t as concerning as Jen’s, senior stylist Eric L. Archibald’s behavior was appalling! I was shocked to hear him say (in the third person, BTW) such things as, “Eric Archibald doesn’t carry his own bags,” “Eric Archibald doesn’t unpack clothes,” and “Eric Archibald doesn’t drive, he has an assistant to drive him.” One valuable lesson I learned by example from a former supervisor when I was in college was that you never ask a subordinate to do anything you’re not willing to do yourself. That is something I’ve always remembered and put into practice. Also, in both my career as a wardrobe stylist and as a former career adviser, I have at times been a one-woman show where I had no choice but to do all the work myself. I was the boss, the consultant, the bookkeeper, the receptionist, and even the housekeeping staff. Did Mr. Archibald never have to start at the bottom and pay his dues, or has it been so long since then that he’s forgotten what it’s like to be in that position? I was shocked by this behavior, but it wasn’t until I saw his treatment of his junior stylist who was homeless at the time that I got fired up enough to take the time to write this!

Junior assistant Brett found himself having to live in his car, just as he once had to when he first moved to LA. He didn’t let his situation affect his work for the agency, but when his job with Eric required him to use his car to drive Eric to their next job location, Brett went above and beyond what was expected of him, and with no compassion from Eric whatsoever. Since Eric insisted that he be driven because “Eric Archibald always has someone else drive him” (can you say diva?), Brett had to make room for him in the car he had been living out of. It broke my heart to see this kid drive his car up to a dumpster and throw out all his remaining belongings, including his comforter, to make room for Eric and the clothes for the styling job, while Eric complained, asking Brett, “Why do you keep moving your car so I have to walk further?” Brett explained he was going to have to throw out his things to get this job done and that getting the senior stylist position at the agency was more important to him than anything. Instead of offering Brett a place to stay or some storage space for his belongings, all Eric was concerned about was his embarrassment to be seen riding in Brett’s “dirty” car. While I respect the work of these senior stylists, I cannot respect their work ethic.

I don’t mean to sound self-righteous, but I am so thankful that, not only was I taught the importance of professionalism and respect in the workplace from former colleagues, but also compassion for the homeless from both someone who is currently making a major sacrifice to raise awareness for homeless teens (check out and from my parents who, I remember when I was in high school, refused to let a homeless woman sleep in a mini-storage unit and brought her to our home, gave her a warm meal, clean clothes and a soft bed to sleep in. Even though my goal is to be a sought-out wardrobe stylist here in Nashville, it will never be at the expense of my morals and values as a loving Christian and a caring citizen, because that’s just not MY style.

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